The Epic Tale of the Dragonslaying Hero has been told a hundred times over. But where did the archetype start? Historians believe that the original Dragonslayer story was the English epic, Beowulf, written sometime between the eighth and eleventh centuries. The story of the Dragonslayer is that of a Hero, who starts off insignificant, but after his journey, is strong enough to face and defeat the evil Dragon. The Hero’s Journey is split into three phases; in order they are: Separation, Initiation, and the Return. The story of Beowulf was written for a specific purpose, other than creating a whole genre. The bards who wrote it as though it was a history, describing the past as the way things are when they wrote it. In a sense, they were trying to rewrite history. It was mainly written in an attempt to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity and change the governing style to Feudalism, among other things. Examples of this are their use of the Forest as a metaphor for Hell. Anglo-Saxon Paganism made the forest the home of their Gods, and the Bards needed to change that. Another element, is the role women play in society. The Bards made women out to be servants, rather than equal.
Finally, the bards added Irony to improve the scenes in the story, as irony adds flair to the tale. Nowadays, our society knows that the forest is just a forest, and that women are equal to men, but those concepts put in place by the Bards, along with irony, still show up in our entertainment. You can find it in movies such as Howard McCain’s Outlander, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Chris Columbus’ Harry potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and Kenneth Branagh’s Thor. Through the use of the Dragonslaying Metaphor, the Hero’s Journey archetype, and elements such as the Forest being Hell, Women’s Place in Society, and Irony, the Bards of olde concocted an Epic perfect for changing the past and converting the Anglo-Saxons to a Feudal Christian society.
Connor True Paragraph 2 (Dragon/Hero/Treasure):
The cultural significance that Beowulf had on the Anglo-Saxons was very significant because it helped aid the spread of Christianity throughout medieval England. The treasure representing your soul, and the dragon being a guardian, or keeper of your soul recurs throughout contemporary film constantly. The dragon guarding the treasure to your soul can be observed in the following text “Beowulf, now an old man, faces his final task: He must fight a dragon who, angry because a thief has stolen a jeweled cup from the dragon’s hoard of gold, is laying waste to the Geats’ land.
Beowulf and eleven warriors are guided to the dragon’s lair by the thief who stole the cup. For Beowulf the price of this last victory will be great.” this is significant to the Dragon being a metaphor for guarding the treasure of your soul, because in the last sentence “Beowulf the price of this last victory will be great.” the treasure, which may be gold, and riches could also be interpreted to refer his soul, and unlocking it from greed, lust, and sin. In the film “Kung Fu Panda” Po, the main character has battle through adversity to unlock his true power, after he gets the “dragon scroll”. In this clip: http://youtu.be/l06Rfyu05Ao Po battles Tai Lung, an evil tiger who seeks revenge on his master for not making him the dragon warrior.
Mollie Freel Paragraph 3 (Forest as Hell):
The metaphor that compares the forest to hell can be found in almost every story following the hero’s journey. The forest can represent any place that can be compared to a type of hell, where an evil character or the devil lives. For example, in the poem of Beowulf, the monster, Grendel, lives far away from people. He lives away from the town inside a dark cave in the forest. In order to survive it was necessary for the civilians to live together in an area not close to Grendel’s evil home. In the beginning of the story, Grendel and his home are described: “A Powerful monster, living down in the darkness, growled in pain…”(1). This quote takes place in the opening scene and is part of the “separation” that occurs in the hero’s journey. “The darkness” in this quote is the forest where Grendel lives, which symbolizes hell.
This excerpt ties back to the Anglo-Saxon’s beliefs of good and evil and exemplifies the cultural significance and the darkness as an important representation of evil in the Anglo-Saxon world. Another example of the forest is hell metaphor is in the movie Horton Hears a Who. After Horton leaves his home of Nool to begin his journey to the mountaintop, he is forced to go through a jungle and conquer many challenges all by himself. This is part of the Separation in the hero’s journey because Horton has responded to his call to be a hero, and is now crossing the bridge, or threshold into the unknown in this scene: “http://youtu.be/VblpG7Up76M”. This portion of Horton Hears a Who is culturally significant today because it demonstrates the heroic trait of fighting for what is right. It shows people to never give up, and to keep their promises.
Jack Steele Paragraph 4 (Monotheism VS. Polytheism): The last theme explored is the belief in one god, Monotheism, rather than many, Polytheism. In the poem, the members in High Herot try to ward off Grendel with magic and rituals to the old stone gods, Paganistic beings. Ancient monks, in their attempt to convert the ancient Anglo Saxons to Christianity, made paganism sound like dealings with satan, and a way into hell. This is said in the quote “And sometimes they sacrificed to the old stone gods, made heathen vows, hoping for Hell’s support, the Devil’s guidance in driving their affliction off.” (23). In this quote, the authors describe how no matter how hard they prayed and made sacrifice to the pagan gods, nothing is ever accomplished.
The only way for them to get anything done, in regards to killing Grendel, is to pray to the Christian god and have him send a warrior that is holy enough to kill him. The cultural significance being that this is the most prominent way of converting ancient Anglo-Saxons to Christianity; By making it sound like the coolest thing ever, and describe how much it does for these people. A movie example would be in the movie Harry Potter, where Harry’s belief in Dumbledore’s Sword, akin to a godlike weapon, instead of magic (something commonly associated with Satan), helps him defeat the giant serpent, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kb7T9oK0tF8. This emphasis on Monotheism in the poem helped convert Britain to Christianity.
Ethan Joshi Paragraph 5 (Greed/Pride/Sin):
Greed/Pride/Sin is a key element in Grendel and in Beowulf’s final fight. Grendel symbolizes greed and sin. Since he is an outcast that lives alone in a cave he begins to be filled with envy and rage towards the Danes that celebrate in their mead hall night after night. As a result he attacks and kills the Danes. This gives Grendel the human characteristics of sadness, envy, and rage. Beowulf represents pride in the story. When he is preparing to fight the demon he chooses to go without any weapons. “Grendel is no braver, no stronger than I am! I could kill him with my sword; I shall not, easy as it would be. This fiend is a bold and famous fighter, but his claws and teeth…Beating at my sword blade, would be helpless.” In this quote, Beowulf is basically saying he is as tough and bold as Grendel and does not need the extra help of a sword to defeat the demon. In the Lord of the Rings, Sméagol is a perfect example of greed and sin. “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQ3zDcmSesQ”. In that clip, He sees the ring that his friend has found and he instantly wants it and he ends up killing his friend for it.
Derek Senger Paragraph 6 (Irony):
In a majority of stories and films it is not expected that women show such dominant characteristics that overpower men. Grendel’s mother from Beowulf and the dragon from Shrek demonstrate tremendous irony as they express such manly behavior. The perception from most people is that beasts and monsters carry male traits but both the Dragon from Shrek and Grendel’s mother from Beowulf are very much female. Grendel’s mother demonstrates her ferocious qualities as she begins to brawl with Beowulf. For example, once Beowulf becomes tangled with this vicious beast, the author states, “She welcomed him in her claws, clutched at him savagely but could not harm him” (578-579). This quotation displays that the attitude of Grendel’s mother is extremely masculine. The irony displayed in this scene helps the story to be much more impactful.
The dragon from Shrek is thought to be a male throughout the movie until Donkey learns “he” is actually a woman. Donkey proves his suspicion when he goes head to head with the dragon and is shocked to see it is wearing lipstick and displays other female characteristics. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2q-R-MRyq84&feature=related) The characteristics that the dragon shows helps prove that this terrifying creature that overpowers both Shrek and Donkey is in fact a girl. It is obvious from this clip that Donkey is shocked as he identifies the gender because he did not expect a man-eating monster to be a female. This irony in both stories creates bewilderment to the audience because it was extraordinarily unpredictable. By having these masculine beasts realistically be women, it helps prove that the position of women in these stories is extremely similar to the role of men.